Apple is said by Bloomberg to be working on a deal that would bring Time Warner Cable content to its Apple TV set-top streaming box, for subscribers to TWC’s existing cable packages. Which is nice, for those people, and something that’s like the iOS apps which allow cable and satellite subscribers to view content they pay for access to on devices other than their TV, but in the big picture, it’s a minor update, not a revolution.
The update would offer subscribers access to content in the same way that the recently-introduced HBO GO app does on Apple TV – if you’re already paying for it, you’ve now got one more window to watch it through. Time Warner also owns HBO GO, so it isn’t surprising to see a relaxing of content rules from TWC. Nor is it a completely novel deal, since TWC already has similar agreements in place with Roku, Xbox and will soon integrate some of its channel line-up into Samsung smart TVs.
The news that more content is potentially coming to Apple TV is good for the ecosystem, good for Apple and good for device users. Apps on Apple TV are great, even when Apple is metering them out carefully instead of opening up the platform the way it has on iOS. And another channel, even if limited to subscribers, is still better than that content not being made available to Apple TV users, for sure. But at the same time, this sounds like a deal that will further the goals of cable providers more than it will prompt any kind of real upheaval in the way we consume and interact with TV.
An actual Apple TV is an exciting prospect because at one time it held the promise of doing something different not just with interfaces or with content vehicles, but with actual content divisions, packaging and pricing. Apps for existing subscribers who still buy plans based on the old way of “here’s a bunch of stuff, some of which you need,” is all well and good, but what about a la carte content? What about the possibility of cutting out the middleman and only paying for what you want to see?
It makes sense for Apple to play ball with legacy providers, especially after so many years have passed with so many reports of it being frustrated when working out broadcast right with media providers. That’s probably why Apple is poaching Pete Distad, an ex-Hulu exec, to come on board and smooth out media co. negotiations. But the world doesn’t need another Hulu, or another extension of the type of “TV Everywhere” campaign that cable companies are fond of putting forward as true change – it needs to be upended, so hopefully that’s still something in Apple’s sights.